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Posts Tagged ‘Law and Gospel’

Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, You revealed to Your Church Your eternal being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in a Trinity of Persons. May Your Church, with bishops like Basil of Caesarea,Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa, receive grace to continue steadfast in the confession of the true faith and constant in our worship of You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Intro:  Basil and the two Gregorys, collectively known as the Cappadocian Fathers, were leaders of Christian orthodoxy in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in the later fourth century. Basil and Gregory of Nyssa were brothers; Gregory of Nazianzus was their friend. All three were influential in shaping the theology ratified by the Council of Constantinople of 381, which is expressed in the Nicene Creed. Their defense of the doctrines of the Holy Spirit and Holy Trinity, together with their contributions to the liturgy of the Eastern Church, make them among the most influential Christian teachers and theologians of their time.

(Source: The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

Reflection:  I have not read much by the Gregorys, but I have read St. Basil’s On the Holy Spirit.  I find the book faith-strengthening.  It is faith strengthening, not because of Basil’s ‘personal testimony’ but he taught the orthodox Word of God. After all, a Mormon’s personal testimony will be radically differ from a Lutheran’s ‘testimony’. How is heresy refuted?  By personal testimony or by the Scripture?  By appeals to the self or appeals to the work of the Holy Spirit, that is, Christ and the Bible? Now Basil was responding to a heresy that denied the equality of the 3 persons of the Holy Trinity.  The heterodox were claiming the subordination of the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son, instead of the Trinity being co-equal.  These heretics taught that the conjunctions (of, and, etc) used in the Bible, referring to the Holy Spirit,  demonstrated this.  Basil goes through and logically shows this is not the case by a word by word  study of the conjunctions in the Bible!   The translator of this work takes up the subject that theological work is boring and dry, as taught by Basil, and the translator comments:

 It is this translator’s opinion that  a good dose of dry logical Cappadocian theology can serve as an effective antidote for the subjective emotionalism in which modern Christians frequently find themselves engulfed.  Doctrine these days is often ignored, taken for granted or replaced with individualism, and perhaps the fathers can help us by reminding us (often with many words!) that God became man to show us the truth which gives life and freedom a truth which is eternal.”(David Anderson, On the Holy Spirit by St. Basil, 1980, St. Vladimir’s Press)

Boring and dry?   Yes, at times, but other times, exciting and wet, wet with  Holy Baptism in God’s Holy Name! C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity that doctrine is like a map.  Maps are not themselves the  geography but can show us the way of the terrain of false doctrine and heresy to the truth to guide the way.  Updating that word picture, doctrine, like the Nicene Creed is like GPS,  showing us the way in the summation of God’s righteous deeds finally and fully in Jesus Christ. The Nicene Creed is Scriptural, check it out here.  At the words of the Nicene Creed, “…and was made man”, the practice is to bow or even kneel at the confession of the Incarnation.  Luther thought this was meet, right and so to do.  Still is.  After all,  every knee shall bow in heaven or on earth at the Name of Jesus, see  Philippians 2:9-11.  Truth is not found in my heart or your heart, with all the subjectivism and sin we are prone, but in the true doctrine as the Church Fathers confessed and lived, there, objectively in Jesus Christ in the glory of God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, received by faith. This pure doctrine, the pure Word purifies the heart, that is the will, and the mind. 

The first quote below is Basil’s response to his task of  answering the heretics’ use of  ”syllables”, the minutiae of small words, as integral to teaching and preaching the Truth. The remainder of the quotes stand on their own and also show that Justification by Grace through Faith in Jesus Christ (as in Holy Baptism) was not an invention of the blessed Reformers, but is in the Scripture as testified by many of the Church Fathers:

 Quotes from On the Holy Spirit by Basil the Great

  • “Instruction begins with the proper use of speech, and syllables and words are the elements of speech. Therefore to scrutinize syllables is not a superfluous task…If a man spurns fundamental elements as insignificant trifles, he will never embrace the fullness of wisdom. ‘Yes’ and “No’ are only two syllables, yet truth, the best of all good things, as well as falsehood, the worst possible evil, are most often expressed by these two small words.”
  • “What makes us Christians?  ‘Our faith,’ everyone would answer. How are we saved?  Obviously the regenerating grace of baptism.  How else could we be?  We are confirmed in our understanding that salvation comes through Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Shall we cast away the standard of teaching we have received?”
  • “If there is any grace in the water, it does not come from the nature of the water, but from the Spirit’s Presence, since baptism is not a removal of dirt from the body, but an appeal to God for a clear conscience. (1 Peter 3: 21)  The Lord describes in the Gospel the pattern of life we must be trained to follow after the (baptismal) regeneration:  gentleness, endurance freedom from the defiling love of pleasure, and from covetousness. We must be determined to acquire in this life all the qualities of the life to come. To define the Gospel as a description of the what resurrectional life should be like seems to be correct and appropriate, as far as I am concerned.”
  • “For creatures, holiness comes from without;  for the Spirit, holiness fills His very nature.  he is not sanctified, but sanctifies.”
  • “Are you not ashamed, my opponent, when you hear the Apostle’s words: ‘You are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in you’? (1 Cor.3: 16) Is a slave’s house honored with the title of temple?  How can someone who calls Scripture ‘God-inspired’ (since it was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) use language that insults and belittles Him?”
  • “We worship God from God, confessing the uniqueness of the persons, while maintaining the unity of the Monarchy.”
  • “Moses was wise enough to realize that triteness and familiarity breed contempt, but the unusual and the unfamiliar naturally commands eager interest.”
  • “…every time we bend our knees for prayer and then rise again, we show by this action that through sin we fell down to earth, but our Creator, the Lover of Mankind, has called us back to heaven.”  

Addendum:   This recitation was done at Trinity Lutheran Church, Klein, TX during the March 4, 2012 church services by three members of Trinity as part of Lutheran Schools week. These three members, and students (former and present) are: Mr. Erich Klenk, 97 years old, confirmed in 1928, past Chairman of the congregation, charter member of the Men’s Club in 1946,  and Trinity’s oldest member. Lyle Lovett, great grandson of Trinity founding father Adam Klein, confirmed in 1971, singer/songwriter, and winner of four Grammys. Erin Pali, class of 2016 and current 4th grade student of Miss Marilyn Peterson/ Erin’s Dad Brett also had Miss Petersen in 4th grade during his years at Trinity. This video was posted to YouTube by Pat Blake.

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The Second Commandment.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.

What does this mean?–Answer.

We should fear and love God that we may not curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.

My wife likes gardening and has a garden.  She reads Rodale Organic Gardening.  In one issue, the last article was,  “Conscious Cursing for Kids!”.  The author, a mother, allows her child to curse and actually encourages her to do so. For instance, her daughter asked her Mom the meaning of “damn”. She taught her daughter that  “damn” means it is a cuss word and it shows you are angry. “Damn:  to condemn to a punishment or fate; especially :  to condemn to hell.”   Mom simply demonstrated the word’s use to convey anger.   She described the word’s effect but not define it’s meaning. By itself “damn” has an implied subject:  God!  I want the other person to go to hell.  I literally pray God by invoking this curse that this person spend eternity in hellfire.  The Lord, though, does not desire anyone to go to hell, in fact, has given us His Son so we do not. The author of this article did not define the word because she either does not know the actual definition or wants to avoid the spiritual meaning of the word. 

This mom’s reason to encourage her daughter to swear is basically people are doing so anyway and it is honest. It used to be said, “I don’t want to be a hypocrite”, since I swear anyway.  Fathers and Mothers have to be hypocrites at times and in the Lord we have to work at all times in not being hypocrites.  Her justification for her daughter to swear is that cuss words are “just words” and it is better to think apart from “unchangeable rules”. Let’s look at those two presuppositions.

1. Words do matter.  So will this mom teach her daughter that “nigger”, “faggot” and calling a grown woman “girl” are “just words”?  I do not think so.  Does mom want her daughter not to obey her when she is in danger from touching the hot stove, or later in life, experimenting with drugs? Words do matter, and so much so, that the hordes of political correctness do not want certain words uttered in public…by law, and so circumventing our First Amendment rights.  Words do matter, like, “I love you”.  Are those “just words”?  Hardly.  Words convey the authority of the one speaking them and accomplish the inherent intent behind them.  If a commanding officer says, attention, that word will do what the speaker wants.  By self selectively choosing which words are “just words”, then this is fantastical and purely rebellious.  What happens when her little girl, grows up and tells someone “f*** you”, and that person smacks her. Words do matter.  She taught her that “damn” expresses anger, so Mom, that word, damn, actually does convey something real.  There are not “just words”.  

2.  There are unchangeable rules and this Mom knows there are as she admits as much in her article.  She just decides not to follow them.  Once again, will she want her daughter to not follow Mom’s rules?  “Go to school”.  “No, Mom, I have decided not to follow that unchangeable rule. Oh, Mom, your rules are just words”.  I will speculate that this Mother has “unchangeable rules” about all sorts of things, otherwise no one could be raised up.  There is right and wrong.  She wants to deny not the rule primarily, but the rule’s “unchangeable” quality.  Why?  “Unchangeable” can only come from one Source:  the Lord.  Post-modern thought teaches all of our ideals, concepts and yes, “rules” are social constructs invented by men and women, but that fantasy belies the fact that there are non-negotiables, i.e. law. Even to say there are no “unchangeable rules” is an unchangeable rule!  It is then an endless loop.   This is the devil’s clever lie that there is no moral Authority, except even as this Mom could, by God’s grace, admit one day, there is this Authority, otherwise as Mom she could not raise her child, just as you have to do certain things to grow a garden.  No “maybes”, “have-tos”. 

All of this just furthers the cheapening of public discourse.  Comedians such as Lenny Bruce in the ’50s and George Carlin in the ’60s and ’70s made a living off of using profanity to demonstrate they are “just words”.  Now, as the Mom said that when she lived in Brooklyn, you hear cussing all the time, so let the tongue wants what the tongue wants.  Even today, though, in spite of all this philosophical wrangling about “just words”, people still do not want to hear certain words while watching “The Big Bang Theory” or a favorite TV show.  These words are profane substitutes for real critical thinking and discourse.  As Ian Anderson wrote in his song, “Thick as a Brick”, “I may make you feel, but I can’t make you think”.  We substitute a powerful emotion (anger, disgust, rage) by using a profanity  for thinking through the solution to the problem before us.  This is hard for adults to learn! 

 Yet, there is something worse afoot in this article.  Mom taught her daughter that it is okay to even say:  “f***king Christ on a pair of sticks” if she really wants.  Notice that once profane words are used that blasphemy is always close behind, that is, using the Name of the Lord in vain and Mom is teaching her daughter that this is also okay.  I do not know what this  article has to do with organic  gardening except the Mother is planting noxious weeds in her own daughter’s heart, soul and mind.  When I first posted this article, I made a mistake in the title substituting “swearing” for the actual word in the Rodale article, “cursing”.  Swearing can be good as in Pledge of Allegiance, or in a court of law, but cursing is never for this means we are being God cursing those whom God would save. Blasphemy becomes fun and acceptable but such weeds choke out the planting of the seed of the Gospel:  Jesus Christ. Maybe this article should be entitled, “Conscious Cursing of Kids”. Once a garden is choked with weeds, it is nigh on to impossible to plant the good seed.  Our Lord has a solemn warning about this sowing of weeds in the lives of children:

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. (St. Mark 9: 42)

and

13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” (St. Mark 10: 13-16)

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 Lord God, heavenly Father, You promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, You led him to the land of Canaan, and You sealed Your covenant with him by the shedding of blood. May we see in Jesus, the Seed of Abraham, the promise of the new covenant of Your Holy Church, sealed with Jesus’ blood on the cross and given to us now in the cup of the new testament; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

About Abraham Abraham (known early in his life as Abram) was called by God to become the father of a great nation (Genesis 12). At age seventy-five and in obedience to God’s command, he, his wife, Sarah, and his nephew Lot moved southwest from the town of Haran to the land of Canaan. There God established a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:18), promising the land of Canaan to his descendants. When Abraham was one hundred and Sarah was ninety, they were blessed with Isaac, the son long promised to them by God. Abraham demonstrated supreme obedience when God commanded him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. God spared the young man’s life only at the last moment and provided a ram as a substitute offering (Genesis 22:1-19). Abraham died at age 175 and was buried in the Cave of Machpelah, which he had purchased earlier as a burial site for Sarah. He is especially honored as the first of the three great Old Testament patriarchs—and for his righteousness before God through faith (Romans 4:1-12). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, cph.org)

Reflection:  With the war, and the previous wars in the Middle East involving Islam, many assert that since Abraham is the father of faith, there are three Abrahamic religions:  Islam, Judaism and Christianity.  In Romans 4: 16, the Apostle Paul calls Abraham, “…the father of us all”, that is Jew and Gentile. The problem is that there is a stark difference in understanding the nature of faith between Christianity on the one side, and Judaism and Islam on the other. Here is the difference:  

For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.(Galatians 3: 18)

The basis of Judaism and Islam is law, or even man-made law. Keep it, you are saved, except the Law of God is whittled down into man-made rules and regs which appear strenuous and strict…. and keepable.  Faith is based upon the promise.  “For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:3 The law had not been given at this time, not until 430 years later (Galatians 3:17). When the Lord showed the stars in the sky to Abraham, the sign of the promise that Abraham would conceive a child, then did he believe.  Abraham seized the promise, God’s faithful Word of promise. Faith comes by the Word of promise, not the law.  Law is about no. Promise is about Yes, that finally and fully all the promises of God find their Yes in Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20).  

When it comes to the Law of God, we do not keep it.  The Law of God is for life, but does not give life, only God does. We usually do not have to go further than the first commandment to see in our wills that we worship and adore other people, place, things and devils as more important than the one true God. After the fall of Adam and Eve, murder, vengeance, violence, sexual immorality and idolatry entered the world.  Genesis chapters 3-11 are the sad news and it reads like a the daily news.  Then in chapter 12: 1, out of nowhere, the Lord calls Abram (as he was known then):  

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”So Abram went, as the Lord had told him

This is the Lord’s promises one after another:  four “I wills”.  Abraham obeyed by faith, not by the law, for faith comes by the Word of promise. Law is based upon “I will” and I don’t (Romans 7:15).  Promise, or Gospel, is based upon, God’s “I will” and all is done  (Romans 7: 24-25)  so that the fruit of faith abounds:  love, joy, peace…against such there is no law (Galatians 5:22-24).

Abraham was truly a man by faith alone. How does faith come? Faith can not come by the Law. Law, even God’s Law, shows us His will, what is not permitted.  Law takes no faith. It’s spiritual use focuses inward upon our souls. False law, like the 5 pillar of Islam, creates false works faith. God’s Law also focuses us inward to spiritually to show us our sin.  True faith does not look inward, for then I see nothing but sin and death,but outward to the One who forgives and gives life.  It comes by preaching and teaching of the Word and the Word is Christ.  The Lord was with Abram and he heard and he believed.  Abraham never saw the fulfillment of his offspring as the stars in the sky: only one son, Isaac.  One son is enough and the one Son is more than enough. Still Abraham did not see for he walked by faith and not by sight, as we all do. He did not found a new religion but Abraham is  the father of Faith. In fact, he was not a Jew, but a believer in the God Who called him, and that is why the Lord renamed Abram, Abraham, literally, father of a multitude, of all those who believe in the Lord who forgives in the Seed of Abraham, Jesus and are now children according to the promise:  

15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed,who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

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A Facebook friend posted this video which shows a man being struck by lightening twice and lives.  At the hospital he told the doctors that he was planning to rob the couple ahead of him:

The video surely portrays the way I want the Lord to act regarding sinners:  nothing that a couple bolts of lightening won’t cure!  But the Lord’s lightening is mostly in the heart, soul and mind of man (Hebrews 4:12).  In a confirmation class,  I gave an example of sin, especially in regards to the 8th commandment:  if you were talking about someone else behind their back, and you were found out, how would you feel?  A girl in my class, looked down and said in a low voice, “I’d be dead” (The girl happens to be my daughter!).  Yes, God’s Law is lightening, burning the soul and that electricity which  does not go out the soles of the feet.  Yes, I’d be dead.  Sin is death. But that is the Lord has another Word by which He took all the lightening of the Law into Himself upon the Cross, as illustrated in this photo of Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 

The Law will blindingly show us our sin (see Saul on the Road to Damascus:  see Acts 9) and upon the Cross

“…he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.”  (Isaiah 53:  5)

We hope the man so struck was struck into repentance and either return or come to faith in the One who was crushed for us all.  He is risen and Baptism into Christ goes into the very the soles of the feet washing us clean.

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Moses was born in Egypt several generations after Joseph brought his father Jacob and his brothers there to escape a famine in the land of Canaan. The descendants of Jacob had been enslaved by the Egyptians and were ordered to kill all their male children. When Moses was born his mother put him in a basket and set it afloat in the Nile River. He was found by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised by her as her own son (Exod 2:1–10). At age 40 Moses killed an Egyptian taskmaster and fled to the land of Midian, where he worked as a shepherd for forty years. Then the Lord called him to go back to Egypt and tell Pharaoh, “Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness” (5:1). Eventually Pharaoh gave in and, after the Israelites celebrated the first Passover, Moses led them out. At the Red Sea the Egyptian army was destroyed and the Israelites passed to safety on dry land (Exodus 12-15). At Mount Sinai they were given the Law and erected the Tabernacle (Exodus 19-40). But because of disobedience they had to wander in the wilderness for forty years. Moses himself was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, although God allowed him to view it (Deuteronomy 34). In the New Testament Moses is referred to as lawgiver and prophet. The first five books of the Bible are attributed to him. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  Moses looms over the first five books of the Bible, the Torah, or the Pentateuch and so the whole Bible.  C. S. Lewis points out that the way to Golgotha must always pass by Sinai, that is the only way to know the Gospel is to spiritually know the Law accusing and showing us our sin so we can see by faith our Savior.  It is Jesus Christ Who looms over and under the New Testament but even more:  all of creation, all of the world. The comparison between Moses and Jesus is important: 

Hebrews 3:  Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 3 For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. 4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

and

St. John 1: For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

But when we forget the Ministry of Moses we do not know the Ministry of Holy Spirit.  When we forget the Law, license looms. When we forget the Gospel, despair grabs hold. The difference between Moses and Jesus, Law and Promise, the one Word of God is beautifully illustrated by Lucas Cranach in his Law and Grace painting below.  If you want an explanation of painting, check out this link  Living Treasures from the Reformation: Law and Promise

“…the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?”  For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.”  (2 Corinthians 3: 6-8)  The Ministry of Righteousness through Jesus Christ has fulfilled all the Law. Even Jewish theologians see the Law given on Sinai destroys as the rabbis tell it,  God held Sinai over the heads of Israel, and He said:  Obey.  The Law condemns, as Moses points to the Law, and the prophet Moses saw the ministry of the Holy Spirit:  “But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord‘s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Exodus 11: 29).  Moses was faithful as a servant, Jesus as the Son, right hand side, and God gives life through the preaching of Christ. 

Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Moses, You began the prophetic pattern of teaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-time prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacrament;through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

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“Question: Who is the most obnoxious, Protestants, Catholics, or Jews?

Answer: It depends on where you are and who you are talking to—though it is hard to conceive any one of the three consistently outdoing the other two in obnoxiousness. Yet, as obnoxious as are all three, none is as murderous as the autonomous self who, believing in nothing, can fall prey to ideology and kill millions of people—unwanted people, old people, sick people, useless people, unborn people, enemies of the state—and do so reasonably, without passion. Adolf Eichmann was a good family man, a devoted husband and father.”-Lost in the Cosmos:  the Last Self-Help Book by Walker Percy (novelist)

 

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Biography:  Remembered as a devoted disciple of Martin Luther, Robert Barnes is considered to be among the first Lutheran martyrs. Born in 1495, Barnes became the prior of the Augustinian monastery at Cambridge,England. Converted to Lutheran teaching, he shared his insights with many English scholars through writings and personal contacts. During a time of exile to Germany he became a friend of Luther and later wrote a Latin summary of the main doctrines of the Augsburg Confession titled “Sententiae.” Upon his return to England, Barnes shared his Lutheran doctrines and views in person with King Henry VIII and initially had a positive reception. In 1529 Barnes was named royal chaplain. The changing political andecclesiastical climate in his native country, however, claimed him as a victim; he was burned at the stake in Smithfield in 1540. His final confession of faith was published by Luther, who called his friend Barnes “our good, pious table companion and guest of our home, this holy martyr, Saint Robertus.”

The following is a quote  by Luther (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer)which shows his close friendships with Robert Barnes.  I have included some footnotes into the text for historical clarification and spiritual elucidation:

This Dr. Robert Barnes we certainly knew, and it is a particular joy for me to hear that our good, pious dinner guest and houseguest has been so graciously called by God to pour out his blood and to become a holy martyr for the sake of His dear Son. Thanks, praise, and glory be to the Father of our dear Lord Jesus Christ, who again, as at the beginning, has granted us to see the time in which His Christians, before our eyes and from our eyes and from beside us, are carried off to become martyrs (that is, carried off to heaven) and become saints (1).

Now, since this holy martyr, St. Robert Barnes, heard at the time that his King Henry VIII of England was opposed to the pope, he came back to England with the hope of planting the Gospel in his homeland and finally brought it about that it began(2) . To cut a long story short, Henry of England was pleased with him, as is his way, until he sent him to us at Wittenberg in the marriage matter (3).

Dr. Robert Barnes himself often said to me: Rex mews non curat religionem, Sed est, etc. [“My king does not care about religion, but he is,” etc.]. Yet he loved his king and homeland so keenly that he willingly endured everything like that and always thought to help England . And it is indeed true that one who would not be optimistic toward his homeland and would not wish everything good for his prince must be a shameful rogue, as not only the Scriptures but also all our laws teach. He always had these words in his mouth: Rex mews, regem meum [“my king, my king”], as his confession indeed indicates that even until his death he was loyal toward his king with all love and faithfulness, which was repaid by Henry with evil. Hope betrayed him. For he always hoped his king would become good in the end(4).

Let us praise and thank God! This is a blessed time for the elect saints of Christ and an unfortunate, grievous time for the devil, for blasphemers, and enemies, and it is going to get even worse. Amen.(5)

(1)  Luther rejoices that there are martyrs and Robert was one of them!  His attitude runs contrary to worldly thought. The way of the world and the flesh is everyone goes in lock step with the world and this means the Church and Christ’s Christians are not fitting in but are preaching the Word. The world does not like this, to say the least.  The world knows nothing about heaven and the resurrection and thinks all of life is about the here and now alone, bent in upon itself.  Not so those called by the Lord, as St. Robert Barnes knew by faith in Jesus Christ. Robert’s martyrdom means he was faithful!

(2)  King Henry VIII, the king of power and notoriety, who had 6 wives and wanted a male heir to the throne,  did anything to secure the succession. Henry and Luther were contemporaries.

(3)  The “marriage matter”, or the “great matter” was King Henry the VIII’s desire to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon, and the only way a divorce was granted was by the Pope’s annulment of a marriage.  The Pope did not so grant, so the King, who had considered himself a devout Roman Catholic, eventually declared himself the head of the Church in England.  The monarchs of the United Kingdom have been the head of the Church of England ever since.  This struggle to separate the English Church from the Roman Church was a time of great turmoil resulting in more than the execution of St. Robert Barnes, such as the beheading of Henry’s faithful Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More. Luther was not for the divorce.

(4)  This is good illustration of the Biblical doctrine of the two kingdoms as rediscovered by the blessed Reformers.  According to Romans 13, the Lord rules through temporal kingdoms, or nations, for the well-being of temporal order, peace, security and the like and then through His kingdom, His spiritual reign through the coming of His reign, in the crucifixion, Resurrection and ascension of His beloved Son, and His reign is eternal. As the Lord rules through both, Christians are citizens of both and St. Robert did want to serve his King. We are to do our best as Americans to be “optimistic” in regards to our “homeland” and “wish everything good” for our government, and that is enough.  The temporal kings (rulers, president, prime ministers and the like) are placed there by God but not as God!  When any government, or church, would tell us not to preach and teach Jesus Christ, in word and/or deed, then as the Apostle Peter was also told that, we respond with the Apostle’s words:  We must obey God rather than men.  As Robert did and as Roman Catholic Thomas More said just before his execution:  “The king’s good servant, but God’s first.”  So with St. Robert and as Christians we are the king’s better servants because our hope is not for this world alone.

(5)  As it is written in Ephesians, our struggle is not against flesh and  blood but against the powers and principalities in the heavenly places. Our prayer is for the Lord’s vengeance against wrongdoing and wrong doers, make no mistake about that, but not as Christians to slay the wicked! As Pastor Andrew Preus recently wrote in a faithful article “Learning to Pray from the Imprecatory Psalms”

The devil would love to make us cry out curses with our own words and our own thoughts out of our own pride. James and John asked Jesus concerning the Samaritans who did not receive him, “Lord, should we tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them (Luke 9:54)?” But the imprecatory psalms don’t have us call the fire down. They have us rather call God down. God is the one who brings vengeance (Deut 32:35; Rom 12:19). And he does this in his own time and wisdom as he reveals his own patience toward us and all sinners (2 Pet 3:9). Therefore Jesus rebuked his overzealous disciples. What begins with anger against injustice can, if the devil and the flesh are given opportunity, turn into prideful curses that reflect the will of the beast (Rev. 13:13) rather than the will of God.

And again as Luther prayed, we pray for the martyrs in our day in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya: 

Let us praise and thank God! This is a blessed time for the elect saints of Christ and an unfortunate, grievous time for the devil, for blasphemers, and enemies, and it is going to get even worse. Amen.

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